A federal judge decided Wednesday to extend the temporary halt on Ohio’s heartbeat abortion ban. U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett says that he is delaying his decision on whether or not to permanently block the law until a similar law in Tennessee and a law banning Ohio abortions due to a Down syndrome diagnosis are both decided.
The heartbeat law was signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in 2019. It would ban abortion after the first detectable heartbeat, which is usually around six weeks, though the heart begins to beat around 21 days after fertilization. DeWine’s passage of the law broke with that of his predecessor, Republican Governor John Kasich, who refused to ratify the bill because he believed it to be unconstitutional. At the time, DeWine said he signed the bill because “it is the right thing to do.” As WKYC reports, he said, “Taking this action really is a kind of a time-honored tradition, the constitutional tradition of making a good faith argument for modification or reversal of existing legal precedents. So that is what this is.”
After the law’s passage, Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses immediately sued to stop the law, saying that it effectively bans abortion altogether. In response to their lawsuit in July 2019, Barrett issued an initial order temporarily blocking the ban’s enforcement, saying that the abortion facilities “are certain to succeed on the merits of their claim that [the bill] is unconstitutional on its face.”
Legal opposition to the bill was not a surprise. Around the time of its passage, DeWine told radio host Hugh Hewitt, “Ultimately, this will work its way up to the United States Supreme Court. And they’ll make that decision.”
With Barrett’s ruling, all eyes turn to Tennessee, which passed its heartbeat abortion ban in June 2020. A federal judge blocked that law almost immediately, following a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. The final ruling also depends on the outcome of an Ohio law banning abortions due to a Down syndrome diagnosis. That law was passed in 2017 but was also immediately challenged and sent to the courts.
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